Caring For Your Older Dog
As your dog grows older, with your special loving care and commitment, your dog can enjoy a quality life during these senior years
Old age comes at different times for different breeds of dogs. In general smaller breeds have a longer life expectancy than larger breeds. A strong, healthy dog will probably age later.
The changes your dog goes through as he ages are natural and are actually very similar to those changes we humans go through. For instance, with aging, an older dog's activity level slows. Without mental stimulation to keep him sharp, an aging dog may become slow and lethargic, and his appetite may change. Older dog care is different from when he was a puppy.
As your dog ages there are changes that you need to be aware of so that you can adapt their lifestyle to make their lives as happy and healthy as possible for as long as possible.
Ensure you still exercise your dog. Older dogs should be taken on walks or swims regularly.
Two gentle walks lasting between 15 and 30 minutes (depending on your own dog's ability) a day would be ideal.
Healthy Skin and Fur
The skin seems to lose its elasticity and becomes thinner as your dog ages and becomes more susceptible to infection. Just like humans turn grey with age, more grey hairs appear as your dog ages. If the quality of your dog's coat changes dramatically, consult your vet. Frequent brushing of the older pet is very important, plus they like the special attention.
Older dogs need to relieve themselves more frequently, often immediately after waking. You may need to start taking him out for a wee once or twice during the night. If night time incontinence becomes a problem, you can lay a plastic sheet or washable pad over his bed.
Metabolism slows down in older dogs and therefore they will require less food to meet their lowered energy requirements. Also, the older dog may be less enthusiastic for physical activities. Both of these factors can lead to weight gain. It is therefore very important to keep your dog's weight under control, as heart conditions, joint pain, and diabetes can all be influenced by obesity. You may need to alter the amount or type of food you are giving to your dog. Discuss your dog's feeding program with your local vet to be sure your dog is getting the proper nutrition for their age and activity level.
The most common reason older pets do not "get around" like they used to is arthritis. The wear and tear on joint surfaces restricts movement and causes discomfort and pain. A number of anti-arthritic medications are available from your local vet. Don't use aspirin, there are medications which have the same effect, but are especially for dogs. Giving your dog cod liver oil will help keep joints flexible, as well as improving its coat. Dogs with arthritis still need exercise, however this should be modified to your dog's ability. Physiotherapy and massage really help. Also bear in mind what you can do to make your home easier to negotiate. You could consider raised food bowls, so that the dog does not have to bend to the floor to eat and drink.
You need to keep a check on your ageing dog's eyes. A cloudy appearance in the centre of the eye which used to be dark in colour is due to a cataract. Cataracts occur when the normally clear lens begins to dehydrate and reflects light back from the eye instead of trapping the light and focusing it on the retina. Treatment for cataracts is surgical removal and may be done in one or both eyes depending on the specifics of each patient.
Glaucoma, an increase in pressure within the eye, can have serious consequences. Glaucoma can be controlled. Glaucoma is caused by a decrease in the amount of fluid that flows out of the eye. This is a serious disease and without proper treatment it can result in blindness. Glaucoma is one of the most frequent causes of blindness in adult dogs. Be sure to have your vet give a close look at your pet's eyes especially after the age of 8 years.
Healthy Teeth and Gums
Routine dental checks by your vet are very important as older dogs are more prone to gum disease and tartar build up on their teeth. It is also a good idea for you to check your dog's teeth and gums regularly.
Should you introduce a puppy to your older dog?
The main concern usually is whether it is fair to the older dog. From my own experience, I believe in most cases it is not only fair to the older dog, but actually beneficial. I have known old dogs take on a new lease of life when a puppy joins the family.
However, there are certain important points to remember. You should not wait until the old dog is too old so that he can still enjoy life with the new puppy. Care should be taken when introducing a puppy to an older dog. You must be very careful not to give the impression that you are afraid the old dog will attack the puppy. It is very unlikely that will happen. It is very rare for a normal, well socialised adult dog to attack a puppy; the odd one which does usually has a history of aggression towards other dogs.
If the older dog has a favourite chair or sleeping place, don't introduce the puppy into these areas as the new puppy should learn to respect the older dog's space. A good place to introduce the new addition is in the garden. Give the two animals time to introduce each other. Don't shout at the old dog if he seems to be staying very close to the puppy and initially don't fuss either of them. Given a bit of time, it is surprising how quickly an older dog and new puppy can become friends.
It is important that the pup learns it's position is at the bottom of the pack and that the old dog does not regard it as a threat. For example, always offer the older dog his food before offering the puppy and when offering treats, the older dog should be given the treat first. The day may come when the pup has grown up, he will want to challenge the older dog to become the leader. This is a long way off and it may never happen. If it does happen, most older dogs are prepared to let a young dog take over without any reacting badly.